Notes on European political culture

16

Feb

2011

Club Europa in Lampedusa

A completely unique conjuncture of events has brought a new wave of undocumented migration to Europe and with it a new wave of principled challenges to European responses to it.

There is widespread awareness in Europe and elsewhere of the tidal change set off by the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Now overshadowed by hyper-mediatized events in Egypt, the ousting of Tunisia’s longstanding president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 was in some ways more decisive and dramatic than events in Egypt, though less networked. It is however Egypt, long-time ally of the United States, neighbor to Israel, perhaps the closest we can find to an Arab super-power, stole the show with its facebook ousting of Hosni Mubarak.

Yet while the mass manifestations of democratic aspirations in Egypt lead Euro-Americans to wipe a tear of self-affirmation, the democratic aspirations of Tunisians has quickly morphed into a security threat to Europe. Built on lofty principles, the European Union talks the talk, and is once again called upon to walk the walk of migrant and human rights.

5,000 Tunisians have so far made the 130 km boat trip to the Italian island of Lampedusa, with default population of only 6,000. Der Spiegel reports that at least 4 people have drowned making the trip. No research is yet available on the social, economic, cultural or political motivations that lead migrants to leave Tunisia just now, at the apparent dawn of a new democratic era in the Arab world. At first glance it seems counterintuitive: Tunisians have achieved their political goals, now there is every reason to stay.

Experience tells however that this is only the beginning of a process where chaos can easily precede calm for extended periods. Not only political, financial and social institutions will be weakened of collapse after the title wave of change, but social and cultural structures and traditions, ways of relating to life and living will be left standing before the abyss of change. Societal insecurity, the primary driver of refugee migration, has declined and will further decline after the departure of Ben Ali.

Both democratic revolutionaries, Europeans now share more in common with Tunisians than before. Just what this common ground means and can be built into culturally remains the great question. To be sure, Club Europa will henceforth not be what it once was. And the question that will, once again but in a new version, force itself upon us from the rapid changes in the Arab world in the coming months and year is this: Just how exclusive are the European political and cultural values?

A dictator has left Tunis, but a culture of governance has also collapsed. A new one will evolve to replace it, with time, but not without money, experience and not least solidarity and openness to what we suddenly, perhaps clumsily and uncomfortably, have in common with Tunisians.

2 Comments…


16 Feb 2011

16:00


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robert hite

17 Feb 2011

04:34

Nice post..I like seeing and reading these..Im keeping busy ..showing next week in Soho..


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